243 Days of Blogging Day 24: Something True

Sunday, 24. December 2017 22:11 | Author:

Oh, the light was a New York Christmas baby
Snowflakes like diamonds in her hair
And we watched them all, sparkle and fall
Something almost true was in the air

“Tinsel and Lights”  Tracey Thorne

Many things have died in 2017.  One of the most obvious casualties of the year has been truth.  While I’m not one to suggest that we were well grounded in truth prior to this year, when #fakenews is meta-meme (people use it to say that the news is and is not fake) something has clearly been lost.

Before you stop reading, fearing that this is going to be one more diatribe about the evils of Trumpism, I want to focus on something much closer to home.  In our outrage and anger, something died in us as well (by us, I suppose I mean me, my gift is intended for me as much as anyone else).  It’s larger than a death of idealism (that really took it in the shorts), it’s a death of the ability to engage in the world with anything but the shield of deepest cynicism.  In the daily barrage of outrage we have settled into bunkers of depression.  Not only do we feel like we cannot win the big battles, we can’t do much of anything.  In the constant questioning of truth, we have also lost our own belief in truth, beyond terror at what may come next.

 But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.

A Christmas Carol Stave I

So my wish for you, for us, my friends, is that you may spend the next year rediscovering the essential truths that make our lives worthwhile.  May our Christmas impulses toward generosity, love, and joy flow through our actions and our hearts throughout 2018.  Fight the feeling of global ineffectiveness by doing something in front of us, whether it be visiting group homes, donating food weekly, or e-donating to charities that will be hit by the changes to the tax code.  Every light is a light, and a good deed shines brightly in a weary world.  Spend time and open our hearts to the people we love, and love the people who have been taken from us.  Feel joy whenever and however we can, and get over the sense that feeling joyful in a dangerous time is somehow wrong.  And while feeling this joy, look for our companions who are falling under the waves and bring them up.

This is the truth of life.  We lose it easily, both from the actions around us and the cynicism that we use to protect ourselves.  But it is still there, and we can see it, generosity, love, and joy,  a tiny bit clearer at Christmas.

Merry Christmas All!

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24 Days of Blogging Day 23: Christmas comes but once a year

Sunday, 24. December 2017 5:16 | Author:

Image result for christmasWell, it’s here already, the penultimate day of the 24 day challenge.  Traditionally through the past five years, I have used this day to reflect on the process, and then use the final day for my Christmas wish for the world (haven’t figured that one out yet…hoping for good inspiration tonight).  This month has gone very quickly…as month tend to do.

If I had to pick one word for this year’s entries, I think it would be personal. I know there have been a few people who have read and commented on some of the pieces, but by and large I feel that I’ve been writing for myself more than any year before.  There have been a few great pieces where I have opened up something that felt real and explored it just a little bit.  I spent two days talking about putting a playlist together, for goodness sake.

I barely wrote about education or technology this year.  I think this reflects the change in my job.  I think that with a new job I might be talking about very different things a year from now.  I’m starting to think that I have mined every weird Christmas tradition that there is, so I’m either going to have to leave that behind, or figure a new way to approach the same things (I could write about Victorian Christmas cards every day of the year!)

I think I focused on a slightly different audience this year.  Though I know a few readers have stuck with this yearly course, I know that a few people have joined for just the last few years.  Some days it is very disappointing that I felt I didn’t have anything to say that was worthwhile for anyone(though this year I didn’t have any skips…unless you count that day that I only posted a picture of my Christmas tree).  As I have said many times. I would write this even if no one read it, but I am grateful for the people who do. Susie, William, Jennifer, Don, Will, Michele, and everyone else who reads daily, I think about you every time I start, and to the extent that any of these are good, I dedicate them to you.

Another feeling I have looking back were the number of posts that were probably undeveloped.  I wrote late most days this year, and often the need for sleep overwhelmed the need to fully plumb an idea.  I might have to come back to a few of these ideas next year.

Last year I was feeling tapped out and truly wondered whether I wanted to keep this going another year.  I don’t feel that same weariness this year.  I think the next year is going to give me a million things to think and write about, and I’m looking forward to another opportunity to share them with you.

Now, if I can just figure out a Christmas wish!

As always, I welcome you comments.

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24 Days of Blogging Day 22: All of the Above

Friday, 22. December 2017 22:15 | Author:

Today I am happy to talk about a Dhuyvetter web project about which I am very excited, but with which I have had no hand in creating.  My daughter Taylor moved to New York last spring to pursue her career as an actress and model in the creative heart of the country.  During the past eight months, she has experienced many of the transitional experiences that all young adults face, compounded with the challenges of starting in a difficult industry while 3000 miles from her home.  Though I have tried to be supportive through the past year, there have been many times when I have simply had to stand back and watch with terror and admiration as she navigates each turn.

A month ago she called me excited about a new project she was starting with a friend.  While my first fatherly reaction was concern over how she could do this project while working, auditioning, modeling, and (I hope) sleeping; but I heard in her explanation an excitement and passion that pushed me past my questions.

Around the first of the year, she and her partner will be launching a arts website called All of the Above.  Artists from their broadening circle will post audio and video, photography and visual arts, prose and poetry for exposure, feedback, and connections.  The website title came from the creators’ initial discussion about the siloed nature of arts sites and a need for a site to capture the eclectic reality of the artists with which they live and work.

The past month has been taken with creating the website (not yet launched) developing a logo (appropriately colored Millennial Pink), and developing the launch content that will set the tone for later submissions.  They have used the social tools of Facebook and Instagram (as well as traditional word of mouth) to herald the coming of AOTA, and have developed plans for marketing and monetizing the site.

As I watch the birth of this project with admiration and bursting pride, I also note how this illustrates a key reality of the digital world.  The gatekeepers between ideas and distribution are gone.  High level productivity is available to all for very little cost.  A website costs almost nothing.  The tools of broadcast are universal.  Now, which this has also allowed for an increase in wide spread poor quality work, it also gives the chance and a voice to every creator.  I hope that AOTA will become a long-term broadly used platform for artists and art lovers to voice and judge and criticize and applaud, but mainly to dream.

I will post the AOTA website as soon as it launches.  For a look at the preparations going into the site you can follow the Instagram Here

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24 Days of Blogging Day 21: And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say…

Friday, 22. December 2017 4:44 | Author:

Today is the first day of Winter, the shortest day of the year, but also the beginning point of days lengthening. Daylight loss stops here and it will continue to grow every day until Summer 2018 turns it around in the other direction. On this day of new starts after a darkest point, I thought it best to talk about my new direction.

Nearly six months ago I wrote about leaving the job I had held for seven years and the career I had developed for thirty-five. These months have been an immense well-timed gift to me as they have provided me time to be present for my mother’s final days and to help my father start his own new journey. I have had wonderful experiences that would never have been possible without this time. However, the ticking of the clock in the back of my mind always reminded me that this was an impermanent state, a “curious interregnum,” as was stated in a book I read. There was another road out there, and I knew I had to find it. I participated in a few projects and considered several possible options, but by early November, I was fairly certain which direction held the most promise for me. I was fairly certain also that they were interested in me, and after a month of hopeful anxiety, I was offered and agreed to take a new job.

Begnning January 2, 2018, I will be working for a company called Catholic School Management. The company was originally founded in Connecticut, but has been recently purchased by Christian Brothers Services. I had know of CSM for many years, as they were working in my diocese when I first became Superintendent, though I was not aware of the corporate change. I had met and spoken to the original founder on multiple occasions through the years, so while I was exploring opportunities, I sent him an email like emails I had sent to other companies. While I received several positive responses to my inquiries, this was the only email from which I received the response, “Call me immediately!”

It turns out that in this transition to the new company, CSM was looking to add a full time executive. I was encouraged to send a letter that day. This letter led to steps too numerous and Byzantine to outline here, but at the end CSM and I decided that we were right for each other at this point in our histories. My position is currently called Chief Consultant, though relabling positions is in the future. Though any new position is less defined by the job description than by the first year of living it, I will have four main areas of duty 1) Field Work 2)Work with adjunct consultants across the country 3)Work on the management team 4)Writing for newsletters, etc. All of these are areas with which I am familiar, and many directions where my career has been heading for some time. Though there will be significant travel involved, I do not need to leave my beloved Southern California home base with so many people I love. On January 2, 2018, I will be flying to Chicago for orientation, and from there many new horizons await.

I smile at the number if people who confidently claim, “I never had the least worry about you.” Did I? Well, I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t worry, but I did feel that there was a direction to this whole process, and as the old days end their fading and the new days start to grow, I can’t help but believe that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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24 Days of Blogging Day 20: Hung by the chimney with care

Thursday, 21. December 2017 2:25 | Author:

Well, I’m twenty days into this thing, so it is about time for a good, old-fashioned Christmas rant.  For all the joys and wonders of the season, there are an equal number of sorrows, frustrations, and irritations that make their regularly yearly visit.  Many of these are purely seasonal and during the rest of the year, a cloud of amnesia comes over us, so that we are newly surprised by their lump of coal appearance each year.

I hate Command Products.  These unholy spawn of the 3M company appear each Yuletide season with promises of secure support without damage to walls.  Spokesperson MC Hammer (get it? You don’t need a hammer?) dons Santa suit for commercials extolling the powerful hold of these products for seasonal Christmas decorations.  You simply attach the adhesive to the hook and press to the wall.  After the season is over, simply pull the adhesive and the hook is gone and the wall is unscathed.

Which would be nice if it worked.  For the past two Christmases I have attempted to use Command Hooks to hold light objects only to end up with my hopes (and the decorations) on the ground.  Last year I tried to hold up plastic garland around the walls.  The hooks were falling as fast as I could string the garland.  Once it finally was completed (after many, many replaced adhesives), it sat for all of two hours before it fell again.  At this point I decided it was “hammer time,” and nailed in tiny hooks…which worked perfectly.

This year, the amnesia in full play, I decided that my mistake the previous year was over-complicating the hanging process.  The garland obviously created torque too complex for the adhesive to endure.  This year I was going to stick to simple up and down hanging…namely my Christmas banner.  It was within the recommended weight for this hook, and it hung straight down flat against the wall, clearly a task created for this tool.  Sick, hang, straighten, mission accomplished.

Until later that night, when I in my cap had just settled down for a late fall nap.  When what to my wondering ears should awaken, the banner was falling, the Command Hook (by 3M) forsaken.  In a true show of insanity, I decided to give it one more try…expecting different results (Note to self:  Whenever we think something is insane, we quote the definition of insanity…aren’t we doing the same thing expecting different results? Discuss).  As I stared at the pile of luckily unbreakable fabric on the floor only two words came to mind:  “Hammer Time!”

As always, I welcome your comments.

 

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24 Days of Blogging Day 19: “God rest ye merry, gentlemen”

Wednesday, 20. December 2017 5:15 | Author:

Image result for the man who invented christmasTonight I saw (thanks to the miracle of MoviePass…talk about your Christmas miracles!” The Man Who Invented Christmas.  It was an enjoyable seasonal movie, mixing light biography, literary history, and fantasy, capturing the story of the creation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  The title is based on the widely-believed story that the modern Christmas owes its origins to people emulating Dickens’ novel (probably not true…at least overstated), but the story focuses on the precarious and chaotic series of events that led to one of the best loved Christmas traditions.

In attempting to capture the creative process (movies of writers sitting silently at the page are not compelling) the movie brings many of the characters to life, and Dickens interacts with them as he discovers this story after a dip in his critical approval.  The story is told large, with a Christoper Plummer Scrooge who alternately chews the scenery while acting as an antagonistic therapist for Charlie.  Dickens is tormented at various times by his writer’s block, his spendthrift father, his own crumbling finances, his memories of childhood in the workhouse, and a growing social conscience and concern for the poor.

Much of the drama in the second half is based in Dickens’ inability to finish the story against an impending deadline.  In this telling (and I doubt this is real) the character of Scrooge was originally intended as a cautionary tale for the unfeeling rich, a story drawn home by his inevitable final bad end, unloved and damned for all eternity.  In other words, there was no plan for Scrooge’s redemption.  His punishment was the moral of the story and vengeance for Dickens’ own anger over his impoverished childhood.  Only through coming to terms with this anger allows Dickens to save his old miser.  The story could have turned out completely differently.  Tiny Tim was supposed to die.

We know Christmas stories so well that we can no longer separate the beginning from the end.  Scrooge is redeemed, George Bailey is saved, Mary and Joseph find a stable (and don’t get me started on Hallmark Channel movies).  In reality life is much messier, Scrooges don’t change very often (even though everyone in a sitcom who has a similar experience in a Christmas episode has the same outcome). It is worth while sometimes to recognize the non-inevitability of the Christmas story…it didn’t have to go this way, and every time it happened…or happens…it is a miracle.

As always, I welcome your comments

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24 Days of Blogging Day 18: Silver and Gold

Tuesday, 19. December 2017 5:59 | Author:

Yesterday while I was riding my bicycle, I saw a BMW emblem on the side of the road. I went back to pick it up, wondering about the poor motorist who was driving around without any identification of his or her car’s superiority. I wonder if driving habits change when a BMW loses its hood ornament. Does speed come down just a couple of miles? Does a driver actually use turn signals? Is the privilege knob turned down a bit?

I brought it back, hoping that it would illustrate for me some profound moral about materialism of the season.  I put it aside and looks at it throughout the day, trying to weave gold out of straw.  And eventually I came up with….nothing.  I couldn’t think of any meaning to a car without a hood ornament…no matter how nice the car may be.

Not every mine shaft leads to silver or gold.  Sometimes you just have a plastic status symbol.

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24 Days of Blogging Day 17: Santa Claus is coming to town

Monday, 18. December 2017 3:47 | Author:

Image resultEveryone knows that much of the Santa Claus legend is based on Fourth Century Turkish Bishop, Nicholas.  In previous years I’ve written about some of the stories and miracles attributed to the saint (including raising children who had been carved up and stored in brine from the dead), but even after he died, St. Nicholas captured the capitalist spirit of the holiday.

The bodies of holy men and women after they were deceased were carefully watched for signs of sanctity.  Some bodies were incorruptible; some bones periodically oozed blood.  The bones of St. Nicholas were claimed by the monks of Myra in Turkey to secrete a rose-scented liquid called Manna or Myrrh.  A corpse that was identified as showing signs of sanctity was extremely valuable, as such remains were seen as direct contact to the Almighty and were capable of healing the sick or performing other miracles.

Unfortunately for the monks of Myra, stories of “Nick’s Miraculous Ooze” spread throughout Europe.  In the early Eleventh Century, a group of merchants from the Italian city of Bari visited Myra, and during their visit they overcame, beat, and tied up the monks that guarded the remains of Nicholas (fa la la la la) and stole the bones and brought them back to Bari where the townspeople built a Basilica as a reliquary for the remains.  Nick put Bari on the map, as pilgrims throughout Christendom traveled to the city on the southernmost tip of Italy to view and perhaps receive a blessing from the first department store Santa.

Like the Macy’s Santa though, the bones of St. Nicholas did not appear in only one place.  The people of Venice claimed that their sailors were in Myra and had brought the relics back to Venice during the First Crusade.  Gimbels had their own Santa to draw the customers into the store (this is such a dated reference that I doubt many will get it).

Twentieth Century scientists, given very limited access to the relics in both cities, determined that the bones of Bari and the bones of Venice likely came from the same skeleton, and they assume that whichever group came second took the remaining bones.  This marks one of the few cases of honest Christmas advertising.

As always I welcome your comments.

I found this story on the Mental Floss website

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The 24 Days of Blogging Day 16: Bring a torch Jeanette Isabella

Saturday, 16. December 2017 23:39 | Author:

Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach

About a week ago I talked about the subject of Advent calendars and gave a few examples of non-traditional calendars.  However, today I learned about a truly non-traditional Advent calendar that might capture the meaning better than standard paper calendars.

The German city of  Gengenbach turns their city hall into an enormous Advent calendar.  The windows are decorated with art depicting a central theme.  At 6:00 pm every evening townspeople and tourists (in true Christmas spirit, this tradition was started 20 years ago to build tourism during the holidays) gather to watch as the lights come up and the shade on the window of the day is raised.  After Christmas all of the windows are illuminated for two weeks.

I like the true spirit of anticipation and community.  Since the windows change every year and since they are kept secret until they are revealed, people actively look forward to the moment of illumination. The experience is a completely communal one.  Families come out together nightly and cheer together when the window is revealed.

The form also reflects the season well.  The windows are opened one at a time and each is admired for itself.  The days of Advent (all days of life) are precious and beautiful, and when anticipation of Christmas loses mindfulness of the present it is a hollow experience.

One more light goes on tonight.  I wonder what it will be?

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24 Days of Blogging Day 15: Bearing gifts, we traverse afar

Saturday, 16. December 2017 6:27 | Author:

The star on top of my tree is the same star that my family used from my earliest memories.  It is a light foil star, one sheet of silver behind a sheet of gold, held together with tabs and slots that would never be used today.  In the back a ring holds the star to the post and there is a hole to insert a light (usually gold or white) to make the star shine.  The star shows its age with slight dents in the foil sheets and a frame that has been reattached many times, but given its age and general delicate construction, it is amazing that it still stands at the top of my tree every year.  This star was actually retired by my mother (the tree designer) when we started to put our tree on a revolving base, as the patchwork repairs on the back didn’t work once there was no longer a back side of the tree.  I don’t remember how the star came to me, though I suspect I was the first to have a tree away from home, and I gathered surplus ornaments from Mom and Dad.  The other ornaments have all been replaced, but the star remains, and I have used it on trees for more than thirty years.

When I was getting the star ready for this year (always a little maintenance for the old star, like makeup on an aging ingenue), I took a moment to also notice the box in which I store it…in which as far as I can tell, it has always been stored.

It is a white box from JW Robinson, a store that I remember, but one that ceased to exist more than ten years ago subsumed in the great contraction of Broadway, Bullocks, Buffums, May Company, Sears…oh wait, I’m slightly early on that one.  The box, though cardboard, is solidly made and permanent, not one of the prefab flat boxes of today.  This box was constructed in the factory and delivered to the store where it was stacked, fully made, with no interchangeable lid and bottom parts.  These boxes must have taken enormous amounts of room and they were terribly impractical, and for this I love it with all my heart.

This box is likely as old as I am, yet it remains relatively unharmed because it has been carefully stored every year.  Christmas is a repository of memory in both the trimmings and the containers.  This container is the star box, and it says Christmas to me as much as any other decoration, food, or song.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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